Skip navigation

Boost Your Sales Using Apps

Posted by Touchpoint Sep 22, 2014

Boost_Sales_Using_Apps_body.jpgby Jennifer Shaheen.

When IBM reported that more than 16 percent of online sales began on mobile devices during the last quarter of 2013, apps started becoming much more interesting to small business owners. Smartphone and tablet usage continues to grow steadily across all demographics, but not every business needs to create their own app to capitalize on this growing trend.

With 1.2 million apps currently available in the Apple store, and a similar number available for Android devices, it can be overwhelming for business owners to identify what apps will help them build their business. Cyriac Roeding, CEO of Shopkick, a location-based mobile app used by retailers to offer customers coupons as they walk in the door, recommends choosing an app that “can truly drive key business metrics: traffic, sales, loyalty, new customers, brand engagement, whatever the metrics are.” Before adding an app to your marketing mix, record what your traffic and sales numbers look like currently. This will make it easier to judge the effectiveness of any app you choose to use.

Choose between proprietary and shared apps

Business owners have two options when it comes to  apps:  create a proprietary app developed and built specifically for your business, or pay to use an app developed by a third-party provider. Carter Thomas, of BlueCloud Solutions, which has created and launched over 900 apps, estimates that it costs at least $2,000 to develop a proprietary app—and far more if you want to include functions such as in-app purchasing or social media sharing.

Of course, having your own app can be great for your most loyal customers, Roeding says. But he also cautions that “It’s important though not to play alone in a ‘walled garden’ only with your own proprietary app, because consumers are not going to download 40 different apps for 40 different stores, or 10 apps for 10 banks.” Knowing your customers’ shopping habits is key. If they’re already using one or more retail-based apps, such as Shopkick or Groupon to guide their shopping excursions, establishing a presence in those established environments may be a smarter move than attempting to go it alone.

Driving sales using apps

There are a number of ways retailers can use apps to drive sales, including offering rewards, demonstrating merchandise, and prompting impulse purchases.

Shopping becomes its own reward with apps like Shopkick, which offers consumers reward points just for walking into the store with the app, or scanning barcodes of products. “Studies have proven time and time again that getting the product in a shopper’s hand is half the battle of the sale,” Roeding says.

Apps like The Vow, which bills itself as the “Dream Engagement Ring Finder,” allows users to virtually try on existing designer engagement rings and even create their own custom looks from their smartphone. This type of app is great news for the retailer who can order, but not necessarily keep in stock, a wide variety of merchandise. Apparel and eyewear retailers, such as Hugo Boss and ZenniOptical, are also using apps of this type.

So-called “flash sales” during which retailers offer a discount on one or more items for a limited amount of time, are proving to be extremely popular with shoppers. There are a number of apps designed for the growing legions of flash sale fans: Rue La La, ideelia, and My Habit are just a few of the apps that help retailers connect with shoppers.


And it’s not just consumer facing businesses that can benefit from apps. There are apps that can help B2B business owners sell more, too. Profit Story is great for small business owners that are trying to get retailers to carry their merchandise. You enter quantity and wholesale prices , along with the price your retailer can ask, and instantly you have the gross profit margin, markup, and break-even analysis at your fingertips. Having these numbers readily available makes it easier for your potential customer to understand how profitable your product could be for them—critical information that could very well help you seal the deal.

A win for the business owner and customer

The best apps deliver value to the customer and drive sales for the business owner. “If there is no true value to the consumer, there is no incentive for them to continue to interact with the app,” Roeding explains. “As most marketers can attest, there are dozens of stories of amazing marketing opportunities that never took off because they didn’t create real value for the consumer. The same is true for the business value. Just because consumers love an app doesn’t mean it will help drive sales at your company.”


Email_Marketing_Lists_body.jpgby Erin O’Donnell.

It’s no surprise to small business owners that an accurate and up-to-date email marketing list helps to save time. But did you know it could also pay off in savings and help to boost sales?

These days it’s not enough to have a big database of email addresses, marketers say. You also need the right ones. A lean, effective email list is populated with subscribers who have opted in to receive information from you, who have engaged with you in the past six months to a year, and whose addresses are up to date. Those are the subscribers who become and remain customers.

“I think small business owners are realizing that it is quality, not quantity, that’s important,” says Mark Satterfield, CEO of Gentle Rain Marketing in Atlanta and author of the forthcoming book The One Week Marketing Plan.

When companies let data management slide, Satterfield says, they’re wasting time on subscribers who aren’t interested. At worst, your messages could land in the spam folder, and your company could be blacklisted by the major email providers like Yahoo! and Gmail.

Marketing expert Carla Wood advises entrepreneurs to avoid the trap of thinking that more email addresses will amplify your message. As founder of ALL Strategy, a marketing firm in Vancouver, British Columbia, Wood tries to show business owners the value of purposeful data that is easy to track and measure in online marketing, from email open rates to sales conversions.

Getting to profitability

Knowing who’s in your database and how responsive they are gives business owners the agility to make adjustments to their marketing plan, Wood says. A list full of irrelevant contacts waters down the accuracy of the metrics you’re receiving. That leads some business owners to ignore the statistics altogether.

“Then, their results do not reflect what would actually help increase revenue,” Wood says.

She also recommends that business owners follow the thread all the way from capturing a contact’s email address to making a sale. If you don’t see a connection to any stream of revenue within six months to two years, based on your sales cycle, that contact may have gone stale.

Email_Marketing_Lists_PQ.jpgIdentify your most—and least—engaged subscribers

Many small business owners use a third-party service to manage their email lists. Susan Baroncini-Moe, a digital marketing strategist in Indianapolis and author of the book Business in Blue Jeans, urges business owners to use all of their available tools to measure open rates and click rates (how often links in your message were clicked on). If a subscriber hasn’t opened your emails in six months, Baroncini-Moe says that’s a good time to decide whether to move that address to an inactive list or just delete it.

Watch your bounce rates, which show how many of your emails were sent to inactive addresses, and remove those addresses immediately. High bounce rates are a red flag to email providers that you might be a spammer. Baroncini-Moe also advises marketers to research known spammer domains, which are used to populate email lists, and eliminate those from your database. Finally, delete any addresses which actually have the words “junk” or “spam” in them; subscribers sometimes create accounts just to handle marketing messages and never engage with them.

“It becomes an issue of keeping your garden weeded,” Baroncini-Moe says. “Check those things once a week, or daily if you’re able.”

Many list administration services also charge a higher rate for a larger list. If you keep it pared to essentials, you might be able to drop into a less expensive tier.

Satterfield recommends targeting your message to people who have expressed interest in your service or product. You can gauge this by offering something relevant in exchange for their email address: a free download, a coupon, or a product sample. That will grow an organic list that yields more results—and more sales—than purchasing a list of random addresses, Satterfield says. A company can also offer multiple streams of email content, and ask subscribers which one they’re most interested in receiving.

Ask permission

The cardinal rule of modern email marketing is to add only those people who opt in to your list. Baroncini-Moe recommends that marketers use two-step confirmation to ensure that subscribers are real people and that they genuinely want to get your emails.

But permissions go stale. Subscribers forget they signed up, or they begin deleting messages without opening any. That’s why it’s good to ask people on your list to reconfirm their interest after six months or so, says Tom Sather, senior director of research for Return Path, a consumer intelligence firm that analyzes email data for businesses.

Sather recommends all businesses have a win-back strategy in place to try to reconnect with subscribers who have faded away. It could be a special discount or a free download. A Return Path study released this spring found companies that employ win-back campaigns typically had good results, and it also gave them a way to ask subscribers to renew their opt-in with a request such as “Click here if you want to remain on our list.”

“It requires an action to refresh it, and it’s more proactive on the business’s end,” Sather said.

Emails are just the first step in the road to revenue, these marketers say. The real payoff comes in sending relevant content to the subscribers who are most likely to buy from your company, and even become ambassadors for your brand.

“At the end of the day, it creates more salespeople for your product,” Wood says. “You need to send the right message to right advocates so they can appropriately expose you to future clients.”

One of the best things about being in business for yourself these days is that there are so many ways to get your message out - and, even better, many of them are very affordable. Of course everyone is talking about digital media right now, and for good reason – when done right, it is an amazing tool for branding and sales alike.


But you may have noticed that I said “when done right.” That’s because when it’s done wrong, any marketing medium –especially digital marketing – can easily and instantly become a big waste of time and money.


As small businesspeople, we can ill afford that.


Example: When I tried my first pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, my goal was to get meeting planners to hire me to speak at their events. So I posted a Google ad aimed at people looking for a “small business speaker.” You can imagine my surprise then, when a week later, I checked in on my ad and found that I had dropped $485 on people looking for Bose speakers for their offices. (i.e. a “small business speaker.”) I had to learn the lesson the hard way, but the good news is that once I figured out how to master pay-per-click ads, they became a nice profit center for me. They can do the same for you.


The real beauty of PPC is that you only pay for warm leads. In other words, only when people are intrigued enough by your headline to click on the ad. No more ‘cast-a-wide-net-and-hope-the-right-person-sees-the-ad’ for you!Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png


Here are 7 tips to help you get your PPC profit center started:


1. Make a budget: With Google PPC ads you set a daily, weekly, or monthly budget and you also set an amount you are willing to pay per click. The more you are willing to pay per click, the higher your ad will likely show up on a particular search result. (Google doesn’t guarantee a high result with a high bid, but for all practical purposes, it’s the key ingredient in the formula.) If you are bidding to dominate popular phrases, expect to pay much more per click than if you are bidding on terms searched less often.


Your cost per click could be a nickel, or it could be five bucks or more. So that’s why you need to set a budget and stick to it.


2. Choose your keywords and phrases carefully: Keywords are the phrases that people search for and are what leads to your ad showing up. You may think you know what words and phrases people will use that best apply to you, but best to be sure. Google’s AdWords tool and a site like Wordtracker will help you determine what terms people are searching for.

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


3. Test: Another beautiful thing about PPC is that, as opposed to traditional advertising, you can instantly see what ads, products, and headlines pull the most traffic. By testing different permutations, you can figure out the combination that works best fairly quickly.


4. Niche and grow rich: The more you can refine your ads and the pages that they target, the better. For example, a jewelry business might want to make one set of ads for “jewelry repair,” another for “jewelry cleaning, “and yet another for “wedding bands.” You are far more likely to get the right person to see the ad if you do this because, among other reasons, Google will automatically place your ad based upon its perceived relevancy to the search query. Someone looking to get their ring cleaned would not likely search for just “jewelry”, but instead would search for “jewelry cleaning.” See? The more niche, the better.


5. Give people a reason to click on your ad: Remember that “free” and “sale” are still the most powerful words in advertising, be it radio, TV, Google or Facebook. By giving people a reason to take action now – “15% off this week only” – you will get more people to click over to your site.


6. Have a clear call to action: What do you want people to do when they get to your landing page? They could buy your product or subscribe to your newsletter or download your e-book or . . . . You have to make it clear once they get there what they should do.


7. Think like a novice: What would someone who doesn’t know you, your site, your business, or your product think when they see your PPC ad and when they surf over to your site? That is what you must keep uppermost in your mind.


Now, anybody need a small business speaker?


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here


Filter Article

By tag: